Little oversight of Sunrise

| 16/10/2008

(CNS): A report by the Office of the Complaints Commissioner (OCC) found that the Education Ministry has been slow in tackling the issues surrounding the provision of services for disabled adults, and that there was a lack of communication between the ministry and the Sunrise Adult Training Centre. However, Education Minister Alden McLaughlin has since outlined in the Legislative Assembly how his ministry is tackling some of the issues raised.

The report, Sunrise Adult Training Centre: Does the government provide adequate day-care centre facilities and education for adults who are mentally and physically disabled, which was tabled in the Legislative Assembly on Monday, 6 October, makes eleven recommendations that Complaints Commissioner Dr John Epp says should be implemented as a matter of urgency by the Ministry.

It also concluded that the Deputy Chief Officer (Research & Planning), who has responsibility for the Centre, had not exercised much oversight or taken a close interest in the operations and clients at Sunrise, the report said.

“It would have been prudent to set out a timeline providing dates by which at least some of the major problems identified by the (Inspectorate’s) review had to be addressed. Thereafter, periodic visits to check on the progress made would have constituted good administration, evidence of acting on the review, and evidence of a concern for the disabled adults enrolled,” the report said.

In the House last week, McLaughlin said his ministry had set up a Steering Committee “Planning the future for Persons with Disabilities in the Cayman Islands” as an advisory body to the Minister comprised of public sector personnel working in the various related programmes serving these clients, personnel from Special Olympics, parents of disabled children, as well as persons with disabilities, working in partnership on the wide ranging issues impacting the lives of persons with disabilities across the Cayman Islands.

He set that a subcommittee has produced a report on the status of services to persons with disabilities with wide ranging recommendations for enhancing service delivery to this population. In addition, a legal subcommittee was set up to craft recommendations for the draft legislation, which should be completed shortly, to address in a comprehensive manner the needs and rights of persons with disabilities within our society.

On the inadequacy of the facility, the Minister said that the duplex that the Sunrise Training Centre occupied was the same building it had occupied since he assumed office in 2005.

His ministry was working to ensure that all Building Code requirements were met and he said the application for change of use was with the Central Planning Authority. However, the government recognized the urgent need for a purpose-built facility, he noted. Preliminary work has already begun to work on identifying a suitable location for the construction of such a facility and he intended to ensure that funds for the design of such a facility are in next year’s budget, the Minister told the House.

“Work is also well underway in the area of improving the operating systems and programmes currently in place at the Sunrise Adult Training Centre to ensure that we bring additional value to our clients,” he said.In the area of administration, the ministry was looking to revamp its record keeping systems and reporting structures and develop a closer working relationship with the parents and guardians of clients.

In the area of programming, the ministry was looking into two of the ASDAN (the Award Scheme and AccreditationNetwork) schemes – “Towards Independence” and “Workright”.
Outlining these schemes, he said “Towards Independence” provided a wide (and almost inexhaustible) array of modules that cater to the entire range of disability. The adult learners are assessed using a graduated level of response – such as gestural help or physical help – that enabled even the most challenged individual to experience the learning environment. “Workright” was a means of accrediting the less challenged adults in a working environment again focusing on life skills, he said.

“In spite of obstacles, in spite of opposition, my commitment to improving services to this sector of our community – persons with disabilities remains steadfast,” Minister McLaughlin maintained.
The OCC report notes that the staff members are caring, and most clients are treated well and appear to be happy and loved. In addition, the Education Ministry has established a foundation for the education of disabled people by providing a functioning education programme for youth at Lighthouse Development Centre.

“The Ministry’s effort to engage in a comprehensive review is commendable. However, as the Chief Officer has warned, major change – a paradigm shift – takes a significant amount of time to plan. Thereafter a lot of time will elapse between when the implementation of change begins and its completion. This leaves the question of what will be done now and in the intervening years before the major reform is in place.”

The OCC report concludes, “It remains, then, to move forward with improvements in assessing clients needs, settling on appropriate programmes and support services such as case management software, and offering these services in buildings that are safe for both clients and staff.”

A January 2007 report by the Schools’ Inspectorate (now the Education Standards and Assessment Unit) of the Sunrise Centre, made at the request of the Ministry, also identified a number of areas in need of improvement. These included the way the Centre was led and managed, systems for monitoring and evaluating the work of the Centre, and communication within the Centre.

There was also criticism for the life-skills programme, which did not cater to the needs of individual clients. The inspectors also found that there was no systems for assessing and documenting clients’ progress, insufficient use of computer assisted programmes and poor quality and quantity of resources, as well as problems with the building itself.

However, this report found that the Centre did well in other areas, such as the job placement programme and some sections of the craft production workshop. The therapist and the volunteer in the occupational therapy area offered appropriate exercises and had a good understanding of clients’ needs, said the inspectors. They also noted that relationships among clients and between clients and staff were generally good, that clients demonstrated responsible behaviour, and that the Centre provided a place where adults with disabilities could come together and work in a non-threatening environment.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    A paradigm shift is neededalright – one of tectonic porportions. The OCC report unbelievably blames a subordinate officer .  Chief Officer salaries were increased enormously a few years back and it was supposedly justified because of increased accountability for them.  I’m sorry – this is ridiculous. Shame on Dr. Epp or is it Mr. Epp?